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Bristol Dragway postpones Thunder Valley Nationals until July

May 14th, 2007 10:54 pm by Dave Ongie

BRISTOL, Tenn. - Citing a series of unfortunate events, Bristol Dragway president Jeff Byrd announced the decision Monday to postpone the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals until July 6-8.

"It's seldom one circumstance, but a series or set of circumstances that led to a tough decision like the one we've had to make," Byrd said.

"We spared no expense in trying to do everything we could do to keep from doing the one thing we didn't want to do, which was postpone."

The decision was made Sunday evening after the staff at the dragway spent the better part of the day with NHRA officials trying to get the track in shape for the event, which was slated to start Friday.

"We tried several different things, including some outside-of-the-box things, and none of them worked to everyone's satisfaction," Byrd said.

The problems with the racing surface at Bristol Dragway stem back to March when small pieces of the launch pad began to come up during the first bracket event of the year.

Instead of looking for a quick fix, the decision was made to replace 210 feet of racing surface.

Byrd said it was his understanding, based on the estimates of the engineers, that the track would be ready for a couple of local events in advance of this weekend's NHRA event.

After a five-week layoff, however, the dragway was still showing signs of the problems that made the resurfacing necessary in the first place.

Byrd said core samples were analyzed, the NHRA was consulted and drivers were brought in to run on it and everyone thought the problems wouldn't be serious enough to hamper this weekend's event.

"The general consensus was while it was not an absolutely perfect surface, it was in adequate condition to race," Byrd said.

But when track preparation began late last week, the problems were enough to lead everyone to agree that the event had to be postponed.

"It was the toughest decision I've made in the 11 years I've been here," Byrd said. "The last resort was to postpone the race - it's not ideal for anybody."

While it's not ideal, it is reality. According to Byrd, the next step will be to start from square one.

"The decision was made yesterday to tear out approximately 700 feet of concrete in both lanes and start all over," Byrd said.

With less than two months between now and the event, it will be quite an undertaking to have the track ready. But the date in July is the only one available to run the event, so Byrd said demolition will begin immediately.

There will be no events run on the track until the NHRA event, so the dragway's weekly bracket racing and street fight events will not be held until at least the middle of July.

While trying to find a way to get the track ready for this weekend was quite a scramble, the real work begins this week as personnel at Bristol Dragway deal with a bevy of logistical problems.

On Monday, a call was placed to ticket holders for this weekend's event with a voice recording making them aware of their options. People who bought tickets through TicketMaster should have received an e-mail.

The process for fans seeking refunds will be to call the dragway ticket office and proceed as instructed.

Fans wishing to attend in July can simply hold onto their tickets and use them in a couple months.

"If you have a ticket for Friday, May 18, it will be good on Friday, July 6," Byrd said. "The schedule in July will be exactly the same. The final eliminations will begin at noon on Sunday."

The postponement was especially disappointing since ticket sales were up about 30 percent compared to last year's event, which was run in April.

For fans outside the area, toll-free informational lines have been set up in order to aid them in obtaining refunds or finding some answers to other questions about the event. Those numbers are: (866)488-6751, (866)848-9011, (866)415-4158, (866)274-4709 or (866)894-9328.

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